Leslie Hand, founder of Movie Glimpse, tells the story about a Catholic woman working on the set of E.T., and the brief exchange she had with director Steven Spielberg. During filming, Melissa Mathison and the cinematographer suddenly realized the similarities between the plot and the story of Jesus Christ. "His being left on earth, being found, his apostles, dying, the resurrection. We were cracking up when we figured out that one. When we told Steven [Spielberg], he said, 'I'm Jewish, and I don't want to hear anything about this.'"
Professor Richard Wiseman would refer to this as a"gorilla moment". The concept is developed in his book, Did You Spot the Gorilla? How to Recognize Hidden Opportunities. The synopsis explains:
In a recent series of ground-breaking psychological experiments, volunteers were shown a 30-second film of some people playing basketball and told to count the number of passes made with the ball. After just a few seconds, a man dressed as a gorilla slowly walked into frame, beat his chest at the camera, and sauntered off. Unbelievably, almost none of the people watching the film noticed the gorilla. Exactly the same psychological mechanisms that cause people to miss the gorilla also make them miss unexpected but vitally important opportunities in their professional and personal lives.
I'm always wary of using "secular" theories to support biblical truths, but I think the good professor's on to something.
In my last entry, Conversion Stories, Janet Rubin wrote in and left this comment:
My husband Dave came to the Lord 2 years ago. He had NO religious background whatsoever and his only Bible knowledge came from Veggietale videos he watched with our daughters. We were having a terrible trial at the time and he just came to God saying, "Things haven't been going very well with me in charge. I think it's time to let the Big Guy take over." He didn't know how to pray and couldn't even tell you who Abraham was, but God changed his life.
Now, I won't ask what a grown man is doing watching cartoons. But for whatever reason, he was startled by a gorilla. He was enjoying a harmless children's show, when suddenly Someone wandered through, unexpected like. And he began to see something he'd previously missed.
According to Scripture, God is in our midst, infusing the world with His presence. Like that gorilla, He roams the corridors of our lives, haunting our films, literature, language and myths; strolling through the everyday minutae, the mundane and commonplace. We may not always see Him, but we cannot escape His presence.
Yet seeing the Gorilla and helping others see Him, is the essence of Christianity. One of Jesus' favorite lines was, "The kingdom of God is like..." The kingdom of heaven was like wheat and tares, seeds and soil, sparrows and lilies -- it was right there, if they only opened their eyes. That's a "gorilla moment," when suddenly the kingdom of God isn't a vague concept, it's the earth between your toes, the cry of the infant and the sparrow building its nest. In Acts 17, the Apostle Paul stood at the altar of the Unknown God and said,
Now what you worship as something unknown I am going to proclaim to you. Acts 17:23
That's what Melissa Mathison did when she told Steven Spielberg his cute little extra-terrestrial bore a strange resemblance to the Son of God. It was a "gorilla moment," one that the great director would rather not witness. He'd become an unwitting messenger of the Gospel. If you look closely, you'll find gorillas everywhere -- opportunities to unveil the Stranger in our midst, to articulate glimpses of the Gospel. So the professor had it right, he just missed the biggest Gorilla of all.